In a pre-match exhortation, President Muhammadu Buhari had charged Nigeriaâs senior team, the Super Eagles to âgo get themâ, as they prepared to tackle debutantes Burundi in the African Nations Cup in Egypt.
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Although President Buhari fulfilled his pledge by watching the match in the comfort of Aso Rock, the Eagles almost did not deliver, until Odion Ighalo came in as a substitute.
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Stepping off the bench, in the 73rd minute, to replace Paul Onuachu, Ighalo scored the winner four minutes after.
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The goal electrified the Nigerian bench in Alexandria Stadium, as the Super Eagles finally broke the resilience of the hard fighting Burundian Swallows, who had vowed to shock the Eagles.
We guessed that President Buhari glued to his TV in Abuja would also have been mightily relieved. Buhari watching Nigeriaâs match against Burundi
The China-based Ighalo calmly beat Burundi keeper Jonathan Nahimana on a one-on-one after running through to an outrageous assist from Ola Aina.
Aina picked up a pass from Alex Iwobi before backheeling through to Ighalo who finished the rest of the job with a calm finish.
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Even as debutants, according to a match report by cafonline.com , the Burundian Swallows showed they were not afraid of taking on the continent’s big giants as they had the best chances to break the deadlock in the opening 45 minutes
In the 14th minute, a well weighted ball from Gael Bigirimana in midfield landed perfectly on Cedric Amissi’s racing feet inside the box with the winger setting himself up with the first touch, but his effort was too close to the Nigerian keeper Daniel Akpeyi
Bigirimana had another brilliant opportunity when he struck a stinging freekick from range in the 28th minute with Akpeyi being forced to fist it away as it came with pace and power
Burundi were denied by the bar in the 37th minute when Cedric Nsabiyumva’s header off a Shassir Nahimana freekick on the left came against the woodwork. Nsabiyumva picked up the rebound but his volley went wide off target. Despite commanding most of the possession, Nigeria had limited chances at goal and their best effort on target was on 12 minutes when Paul Ebere forced keeper Nahimana to a great save with a header off an Iwobi cross
Samuel Chukwueze was the most exciting player off the left wing as his pace and trickery on the ball often proved to be too much to bear for the Burundian defenders
Nigeria were forced to make a change six minutes to the break when Abdullahi Shehu was stretchered off and his place taken by Collins Chidozie on the right side of defense
The Eagles came back hungrier in the second half and played with more urgency
Six minutes after the restart, Kenneth Omeruo’s header at the backpost off a Peter Etebo freekick went inches wide. In the 70th minute, Chukweuze had a chance with a dinking effort as he raced though on goal from the left but the effort was over
A minute on the turn, Abdul Razak Fiston, Burundi’s top scorer during the qualifiers almost caught keeper Akpeyi off his line with a shot from range, but the shot stopper managed to dive well to his right and palm the ball away
Just after Ighalo’s introduction, Burundi’s coach Olivier Niyungeko made a defensive change, Shassir Nahimana coming off for Christophe Nduwarugira
But, the change didn’t provide the shield it was aimed at with Ighalo icing the cake four minutes after coming onto the pitch
Burundi almost found a way back into the game immediately when Akpeyi made an error handling a cross, but Fiston could not take advantage, his shot at goal blocked
Burundi’s next assignment will be against fellow debutants Madagascar next Wednesday while Nigeria will face Guinea in a mouth watering tie the following day